No. 226



About thirteen hundred miles Southwest of Wall Street there is a little hamburger restaurant that has made a lasting impression on me. The name of this restaurant is Feltners Whatta Burger and its located just off I-40 in Russellville, Arkansas. While its still true today, but even more so when I used to travel more extensively, I would drive an extra 50 to 100 miles out of the way just so I could eat at this little restaurant. I know for a fact that many other people do this as well.

The main draw was the quality of the food and while its a matter of taste, I dont know of many things better than a delicious hamburger. When you take pure ground chuck, fresh lettuce, big slices of onion, pickles and home grown(in season) tomatoes and build one on an extra large steamed bun, you have a Feltners Whatta Burger. I might add, that Feltners should not be confused with the Whatta Burger chain that is found in Texas. Their attorney worked it out where they could have the rights to their name in Arkansas but not in other areas of the country.

Feltners Whatta Burger is really a David & Goliath story. A small restaurant surrounded by the major chains, both fast food and slow food, and thriving right there in the midst of them. But even more than that, the founder Bob Feltner, who passed away back in 1997, developed a unique system of getting customers in and out in a timely fashion with low overhead. If you have an interest in the restaurant business, you may want to think seriously about what I am saying.

In all my travels I have never seen a system like they have. Here is how it works. When a customer comes in the front door, they move forward to get in a single line and the narrow railing insures that customers are served in the order they came in. While standing there looking at the large menu selection board a waitress approaches to take your order. The order is written on a white paper bag and then passed along to the assembly line where individual employees select the various ingredients to fill customer orders. They have many items on the menu besides hamburgers but its the system thats unique.

While going through the line, you pass face to face with several employees performing their tasks until you get to the drink fountain and the cashier. He or she takes your drink order, fills it, takes your money, gives you your order in the white paper bag, places a bottle of catsup on the tray and you are on your way. At this point you just walk back to a booth, split the sack open, have the blessing and enjoy. When you are finished, take the tray to the trash can, empty it, and walk out the door.

If you have ever had a Feltners Whatta Burger you might like to know that this restaurant has been honored to have the best hamburger in N.W. Arkansas by the Arkansas Times Readers Choice Awards for 15 straight years. Another unique factor that is an assett is that the restaurant is located across the street from Arkansas Tech University and all the employees wear uniforms of Kelly Green and Gold, the schools colors.

Since 1997 when Bob Feltner passed away, his daughter Missy and Son-In-Law Randy Ellis have run the business. In a recent interview Missy said something every business person needs to keep in mind. She said, Dad always taught us to use good products, to put out good food and be fair to your customers and employees. In a day of corporate takeovers, we need more of these kinds of stories. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)